Dr. J. Raymond Tumbleson

A Celebration of Life for Dr. J. Raymond “Ray” Tumbleson will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17, in the lobby of the Music Building at Southern Oregon University.  Dr. Tumbleson died June 29 at his home in Woodstock, New York. He was 88.

Dr. Tumbleson was a member of the music faculty at SOU from 1963 to 1983. In 1976, he founded the Rogue Valley Opera Association, an independent not-for-profit organization based in Medford. Now known as Rogue Opera, the organization completed a successful production of “The Marriage of Figaro” in May. According to Rogue Opera board member Dr. Fredna Grimland, the company dedicated the opera production to Tumbleson and sent him a DVD recording of one of the performances.

Dr. Grimland, also a member of the SOU music faculty, says Dr. Tumbleson was very generous to both Rogue Opera and SOU. She says while Dr. Tumbleson was in charge of choral music at the university, he set the text and the vocal arrangement to the SOU alma mater.

SOU Provost and VP of Academic Affairs Dr. James Klein says Dr. Tumbleson also made a great contribution to the community. “Like former faculty member Angus Bowmer who gave us the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ray Tumbleson was more than a great teacher and mentor to his students. Ray also created a Rogue Valley cultural treasure that will live on and be cherished by generations of opera lovers.”

Dr. Tumbleson was born in 1922 in Sac City, Iowa. He entered the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY in 1939, but left to join the Army in World War II. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles and resumed undergraduate studies at UCLA. He also toured with the Savoy Opera Company of San Francisco. While touring, he met Treva whom he married in 1949.

In the 1950’s Dr. Tumbleson performed on live radio and TV shows, including those headlined by Tennessee Ernie Ford and Perry Como. While living in New York, he received a Masters in Music Education from Columbia University. He later earned a doctorate from the University of Southern California.

At SOU, Dr. Tumbleson staged a variety of operettas and musicals including “South Pacific” and “Company.”  He also served as musical director for the First Presbyterian Church in Ashland for more than thirty years. After his wife’s death, Dr. Tumbleson moved from Ashland to Woodstock in 2004 to be close to his children.

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